Best value bets in the SEC among 'Game of the Year' point spreads
Single-game point spreads have begun to surface this offseason. The Golden Nugget, a Las Vegas-based sportsbook, was the latest eager to reveal its “Game of the Year” lines. These lines feature 100 upcoming college football games and assign a point spread for each.
Every SEC game listed on the board at the Golden Nugget can be found here.
In our weekly predictions and bets column last year, where we predict the scores for SEC games (except those against FCS teams), I finished 60-35-1 against the spread. Looking ahead to the “Game of the Year” point spreads, there are a few that immediately jump out as value picks in early June.
Oct. 26: Mississippi State at TEXAS A&M (-7.5)
This is my favorite bet on the board for a number of reasons. The line might seem reasonable upon first glance, as depending on where you look, Mississippi State and Texas A&M project as top 15-25 teams entering the 2019 season, but I like the Aggies to not only cover the spread but do so by a wide margin.
Joe Moorhead arrived in Starkville with a ton of hype, but he’s yet to prove he’s an elite gameday coach in the SEC, so it’s not a stretch to suggest Texas A&M will have the coaching advantage. The Aggies also feature more talent and are playing at Kyle Field, which helped A&M to a 6-1 record last season — with the lone loss coming against Clemson.
If coaching, talent and location aren’t enough of an advantage, check out the schedules for each team entering this contest. Mississippi State travels to Auburn, gets a bye, then travels to Tennessee, then hosts LSU before hitting the road for College Station. It’s not out of the question that MSU loses all 3 games. A&M plays Arkansas, then hosts Alabama with two weeks to prepare before traveling to Ole Miss. Mississippi State could be out of gas while the Aggies look to have only one test in a month before facing off against the Bulldogs.
I expect this line to be closer to Texas A&M (-14) by game week.
Sept. 21: Notre Dame at GEORGIA (-9.5)
A close second in my mind, Notre Dame is going to get exposed in Athens, plain and simple. CBS hasn’t officially announced this game as the primetime “SEC on CBS” game for Week 4, but that’s coming, too. Moving this game to the evening will add to the anticipation of matchup and give UGA fans extra time to get good and ready (can you say all-day tailgating?).
Georgia will exploit the mismatch on the line of scrimmage and the result will send a message to any doubters that Kirby Smart’s team is ready to challenge for another Playoff berth in 2019 — much like last season’s trip to South Carolina did for the Bulldogs. The Dawgs will win by several touchdowns, with the only concern being Smart pulling his starters early enough that Notre Dame manages to score a few touchdowns and recover an onside kick or two to cover the spread.
This line might hold steady given the fact Notre Dame is a national brand and will attract casual bettors with the Irish coming off a Playoff appearance, but Georgia should blow out the Irish.
Sept. 28: Ole Miss at ALABAMA (-34)
Rarely am I on the side of giving away this many points, especially considering this is the largest point spread on the board of all 100 games listed by the Golden Nugget, but I seem to be in the minority of understanding just how awful Ole Miss is going to be next season. We are talking Arkansas 2018, Tennessee 2017 bad here. Matt Luke and the Rebels are getting a ton of praise for hiring some quality coordinators, but those guys can only do so much work with what they have.
Alabama won 62-7 last year in Oxford and I’m expecting something similar next season. Don’t be surprised if Ole Miss gets shut out, and considering Alabama only failed to score fewer than 30 in two league games last season (at LSU and vs. Mississippi State), and the two defenses that limited the Tide were outstanding, it seems unfathomable that the Rebels hold Tua Tagovailoa and company below 40 points.
This line will be closer to Alabama (-40) by the time this game rolls.
Sept. 14: Alabama at SOUTH CAROLINA (+18)
Prepare yourself, you are going to hear about Alabama’s previous trip to Columbia about 1,000 times by the time this contest kicks off. Nick Saban’s last defeat against an SEC East opponent came in 2010 when Steve Spurrier led the Gamecocks to a 35-21 home victory over the Crimson Tide and the legend of Stephen Garcia (on the field) was born. The stock of Will Muschamp’s South Carolina program is holding steady this offseason after stumbling last year, but I suspect the Gamecocks are in for a nice rebound season. I expect this will be the game that proves just how far the program has come with another offseason of development under Muschamp.
That’s not to say an outright win should be expected, but South Carolina can make this a one-score game with the help of a hostile Williams-Brice Stadium crowd and senior quarterback Jake Bentley under center. Bentley will likely never live up to the promise he flashed when he burst on the scene in 2016, but maybe what he needs more than anything else is lowered expectations. You seemingly can’t mention his name without some fans calling for the start of the Ryan Hilinski era in Columbia, which should only motivate the senior that much more to push himself this offseason.
This line likely won’t move much, unless South Carolina struggles in the opener against North Carolina, but either way, I like the Gamecocks (+18) in a game that could define the legacy of Muschamp and Bentley in Columbia.
Oct. 5: Georgia at TENNESSEE (+18)
Georgia should be riding high entering this matchup while Tennessee could be an upset in Gainesville from a 4-0 record with two weeks to prepare before the Bulldogs visit Neyland Stadium. Even if the Vols are 3-1, Jeremy Pruitt’s program showed it could play with Georgia last year and while the Bulldogs are likely to make strides from last season, Tennessee has significantly more room for improvement in Year 2 under its head coach.
Under the leadership of Jim Chaney and with the return of an experienced quarterback in Jarrett Guarantano, who was quietly one of the SEC’s most improved players last season, and with the return of nearly every playmaker around him, Tennessee’s offense should be one of the more improved units in the league next season. Few saw Tennessee’s upsets of Auburn and Kentucky coming last season and if the team can show more consistency in Year 2 of Pruitt’s program, there will likely be more upsets to come.
Expect this line to be closer to 14 by the time the game arrives. I like the value provided with Tennessee (+18).